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Episode 43: The overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy with Kau‘i Sai-Dudoit

In 1891 Lili‘uokalani inherited a monarchy that was, says historian Kau‘i Sai-Dudoit, fraught with troubles and situations beyond her control.

“Her first act is she goes out to hear the voice of her people and her people want a return to the Constitution of 1864.”

The newly formed Hawaiian political party, Hui Kalai‘?ina, presented the queen with 9,000 signatures demanding an end to the Bayonet Constitution. There was talk of new constitutional provisions for Hawai‘i too, like giving women the vote for the first time. But the men who’d written the Bayonet Constitution had no desire to see it fall. In early 1893, everything came to a head. On January 14 citizens gathered at ‘Iolani Palace to hear the queen announce the nation had a new constitution. But the queen’s cabinet, which had earlier agreed to the constitution, now refused to sign the document, and the queen was forced to tell the crowd that its promulgation had been postponed. Her foes moved quickly. On January 17, with the backing of the Honolulu Rifles and American troops landed by the U.S. foreign minister, they overthrew the queen, declared martial law and immediately looked toward the U.S.

“She inherited a really messy situation. Things were already in motion. American annexation was already being aimed at by the businessmen in Hawai‘i. They were such a small percentage of the population but they were right here in the heart of Honolulu.”

researcher, writter, and narrator of Aloha Aina. She is currently an editor at Hawai‘i’s largest magazine, Hana Hou!, where she has written and edited numerous award-winning articles about Hawai‘i. She was the founding editor of Honolulu Weekly. She holds a BA in Pacific history and journalism from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and a JD from Stanford Law School.
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